Say My Name

Candyman (2021) is a pale reflection of the legend. I feel like I’m missing something, because I really don’t get why it’s so highly rated. The “Say My Name” trailer is complete false advertisement. Just like Halloween (2018), Candyman (2021) is a requel that ignores the events of Farewell to the Flesh and Day of the Dead. Although a fourth movie was intended (including a crossover with Leprechaun), nothing happened for over 2 decades. So Jordan Peele revived it as part of his ever growing array of black horror films. Except Nia DaCosta is the director. Since the movie is more black, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as a grown up baby Anthony from the first movie.

He’s an artist living with his girlfriend Brianna played by Teyonah Parris. Vanessa Williams briefly returns as Anthony’s estranged mother when he’s slowly consumed by the Candyman legend. Despite a 1 hour & 31 minute runtime, Candyman (2021) feels endless and takes a long time to get to any kills. Kills are bloody, but not nearly as icky with no gross bee imagery. The tone is all over the place with an overly comedic gay couple, badly written victims, and high school mean girls with no bearing on the plot. Even though Candyman is a black slasher villain, the franchise was never exclusively black focused. Which is why there’s no reason to connect it to the original.

Candyman (2021) spends a lot more time harping on police brutality, gentrification, racism, and other social problems. More time is spent on another version of Candyman who lived in Cabrini-Green and handed out candy to children before he was killed by the police. It’s practically a remake, but I guess Peele wanted to have his candy and eat it too. Stories of Helen Lyle are brought up, but all flashbacks are shown in visually unique shadow puppets. Tony Todd doesn’t appear until the very end. Without him, Candyman (2021) doesn’t hold a hook to the original.

4. Candyman (2021)

Candyman holds out candy

Preceded by: Candyman (1992)

The Man in the Mirror

Candyman: Day of the Dead is dead on arrival. Any amount of dignity the franchise had is long gone in this direct-to-video third installment. Although it’s a direct follow up to Farewell to the Flesh, Candyman’s origin is reshot to be at night instead of day. Now Candyman’s legend springs up around Day of the Dead instead of Mardi Gras and takes place in Los Angeles for no good reason. There’s way more emphasis on Mexican culture instead of black culture. The final girl is of course the third blonde in a row.

Since the movie takes place in the distant future of 2020, Annie’s daughter has grown into Donna D’Errico. Despite the almost constant nudity, the former Playboy playmate never gets fully naked. Her acting is unsurprisingly terrible just like everyone else in the movie. Not even Tony Todd can save it. Caroline once again makes the brainless decision to invoke Candyman and has to deal with the bloody aftermath. There’s also a racist cop that she has to deal with.

Just as annoying are Caroline’s constant nightmares that remind me this is a late 90’s movie. Dead of the Dead is now your run of the mill gorefest. Bees continue to ravage people and his hook is always in use. It was already icky before, but Candyman continues to seduce one of his descendants. Only this time it’s his paintings that kill him instead of a mirror. Even though they once again go for a cheap fake out. There was supposed to be a fourth Candyman set in New England, but Candyman: Day of the Dead practically killed the legend.

3. Candyman 3 Day of the Dead

Candyman arrives

Preceded by: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Sweets to the Sweet

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh removes all mystery from the legend. Even though he’s a horror movie slasher, I never knew Candyman had sequels. Apparently Bill Condon was the director and more recognizable actors like Bill Nunn and horror legend Veronica Cartwright are it. Farewell to the Flesh is an icky sounding title that has something to do with Mardi Gras. The sequel inexplicably takes place in New Orleans despite Candyman’s strong ties to Chicago. His lynch mob origin story loses its impact when you see it clumsily depicted on screen.

His name is revealed to be Daniel Robitaille, he got the name Candyman from the honey that was smeared on him, and they even reveal why he’s summoned through a mirror. Aside from a less reserved Tony Todd, the only returning actor is Michael Culkin as the naysaying professor from the first movie. When he’s brutally murdered, another blonde final girl takes Helen’s place. Despite New Orleans having strong emphasis on black culture, Farewell to the Flesh is still predominantly white.

TV actress Kelly Rowan plays inner city school teacher Annie. She tries to clear her brothers name after several Candyman victims are linked to him. Like Helen, Annie foolishly summons Candyman and deals with the repercussions just like the original. The sequel doubles down on the unnecessary gore and gross imagery involving bees. Annie is later revealed to have close ties with Candyman, but I’m not sure I accept it as canon. There were several ideas for Candyman 2, but Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh should’ve been left on the cutting room floor like all the rest.

2. Candyman Farewell to the Flesh

Candyman crumbles

Preceded by: Candyman & Followed by: Candyman: Day of the Dead

Be My Victim

Candyman feels like a genuine urban legend. Like most urban legends, I never knew the whole story. My parents never encouraged me to watch Candyman, because it was too icky. I agree, but I’ve already seen the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Candyman intrigued me since he’s the most iconic African American horror movie slasher ever created. His original short story titled “The Forbidden” was the biggest stand out in a book by Clive Barker. Director Bernard Rose developed Candyman into something of a modern day Bloody Mary. Just say his name 5 times in a mirror and he’ll claim his next victim.

Candyman stands out for his long fur coat, bloody hook hand, and gruesomely exposed chest containing a hive of bees. Horror legend Tony Todd is a dignified menace who speaks in booming whispers. He was so dedicated that he endured several bee stings. Despite the strong emphasis on black culture, the final girl is married grad student Helen Lyle played by the caucasian Virginia Madsen. She researches the murders and graffiti linked to the urban legend with her friend. While also looking into the Cabrini-Green housing projects for a majority of the film.

It’s surprisingly tense, psychological, and reminded of Child’s Play with a strong emphasis on Chicago. Music by Philip Glass makes it feel more opretic. Even Candyman’s tragic origin as the artistic son of a former slave who was lynched after falling for a white woman is more nuanced than most 90’s horror movies. They kind of sacrifice a subtle tone for overly gory kills. Helen is made to look insane and I wasn’t crazy about a baby being put in harm’s way. Candyman is defeated, but Helen pays a terrible price. Candyman will be remembered whether I want to or not.

1. Candyman

Candyman presents himself

Followed by: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Heir to the Throne

Coming 2 America is another comedy sequel to a cult classic made too late for anyone to care. After reigniting his career with Dolemite is My Name, Eddie Murphy rejoined with its director Craig Brewer and Wesley Snipes as a militaristic African dictator. It wasn’t intended as another streaming movie, but the Pandemic happened. Although Murphy’s heart was in the right place, Coming to America only worked because of the 80’s. Coming 2 America now has a wimpy PG-13 rating and PC jokes that ruin a lot of characters. The barber shop gang (that are somehow still alive) just aren’t funny when talking about stuff from the 2020’s.

At least the Oscar nominated makeup is still good. Murphy and Arsenio Hall play all of their characters (including the old Jewish man), but Hall also plays a witch doctor. Almost the entire living cast returns to essentially do the same thing all over again. John Amos and the late Louis Anderson are back with another McDowell’s joke, Shari Headley feels off playing Lisa all these years later, and Akeem’s intended bride is still hopping. Plus another joke made about the Duke brothers from Trading Places. I don’t mind nostalgia, but Coming 2 America is just Coming to America in reverse. Prince Akeem is on the verge of becoming king when his father falls ill. Only James Earl Jones is around since Mage Sinclair sadly passed away.

Before King Joffer dies, he tells Akeem that he somehow sired a son back in New York. As PC as the sequel tries to be, Lavelle was only born because Akeem was drugged and taken advantage of by Leslie Jones. Jones and Tracy Morgan are only around to be loud and obnoxious as Lavelle’s mother and uncle. Lavelle starts out one way, then feels like a completely different character in Zamunda. You know the drill, Akeem’s son has to learn to become a king despite having daughters who are clearly gonna become queen by the end. Coming 2 America isn’t an unwelcome reunion, but some stories are better left without a follow up.

Coming 2 America

Prince Akeem and Semmi return to New York

Preceded by: Coming to America

Racing in SPACE!

F9 is officially running on car fumes. With no rhyme or reason, the title has now been shortened to simply F9 or the even more bizarre F9: The Fast Saga. We had to wait an entire year for it thanks to the Pandemic. This time Corona was their enemy. After 9 whole movies (and a spin-off), the Fast & Furious franchise continues to complicate a franchise built on fast cars and beautiful woman. Hobbs & Shaw was a dumb fun detour, but Dwayne Johnson officially wants nothing to do with Vin Diesel. So he had to be replaced by another professional wrestler turned actor. Except that John Cena ended up playing Dom’s long lost brother who conveniently hasn’t been mentioned until the 9th freaking installment. That’s one thing, but Cena also looks nothing like Diesel or Jordana Brewster. Despite being retired the same time that Brian was, Mia returns since there’s too much family drama at stake.

Jakob Toretto is a master thief, assassin, and high performance driver trying to take over the world with yet another McGuffin called Project Aries that can control all technology or something. A bratty Danish aristocrat finances his mission and Charlize Theron’s Cipher is now imprisoned with an even more ridiculous bowl cut. Dom and Letty come out of retirement after dropping off their son Brian with Brian. With Mr. Nobody out of the picture, the team now consists of: Dom, Letty, Rome, Tej, and Ramsey. Helen Mirren only returns for an out of nowhere car chase and Jason Statham only shows up for a surprise cameo. Since director Justin Lin returns after a 3 movie absence, Sung Kang returns as Han in the most nonsensical way possible. Despite the franchise spanning magnitude of his death, Han is only around to protect a girl linked to the doomsday device.

Normally I enjoy the increasingly convoluted franchise, but F9 feels off with a new writer and an overlong runtime. There are several flashbacks explaining how Dom and Jakob became estranged. Despite the out of nowhere presence of Cardi B, the only cars and butts scene is a classy all-white dress party. Jokes also have poor timing with far too much self awareness from Rome about how they keeping escaping death. At least the action is still awesome despite physics no longer existing. A car swings from a rope bridge, Dom tackles his brother from a zipline, and high powered magnets are used in several car chases. But F9 is the movie that finally sends the team into space. The crew from Tokyo Drift somehow became rocket scientists who send a car piloted by Rome and Tej into space. I have no clue where the franchise could possibly go from here, but F9 feels like peak brainlessness.

10. F9

Dom confronts his brother Jakob

Preceded by: The Fate of the Furious

Just for One Day

We Can Be Heroes is the sequel to Sharkboy and Lavagirl I never knew I wanted. I was seriously taken off guard when it was announced. Although I grew up with the movie, I never thought Robert Rodriguez would return to it. Making a sequel after the kids grew up didn’t work for Spy Kids 4-D, but I enjoyed We Can Be Heroes a lot more than I thought I would. Though it technically isn’t a Sharkboy and Lavagirl sequel. Rodriguez clearly wanted to make his own kid friendly superhero universe and it only made sense to include them.

Taylor Dooley reprises her role, but Taylor Lautner doesn’t, despite his recent Twilight fame. So Lavagirl does all the talking while Sharkboy remains silent and wears a mask. Since he’s in everything now, Pedro Pascal plays the Heroics leader Marcus Moreno who can hold swords magnetically. There’s also Boyd Holbrook as the prototypical Miracle Guy, Christian Slater as the technological Tech-No, and many more colorful superheroes. When they’re all captured by aliens, their children step up to bring them back. Priyanka Chopra plays the head of Heroics who keeps all the kids in one place. Missy Moreno is Marcus’ ordinary daughter who proves herself as a leader.

Wheels is a super-smart kid in a wheelchair, Noodles stretches, Ojo has precognitive drawings, A Capella is a personal favorite with super singing, Slo-Mo moves in slow motion, Face Maker makes goofy faces, Rewind & Fast Forward affect time differently, and Wild Card has many powers that he can’t control. The adorable Guppy is the daughter of Sharkboy & Lavagirl with shark strength and water manipulation. It could have easily been cheesy and/or cringy, but I really like seeing original superheroes. The cartoonish CGI actually works and the childish action is actually pretty fun. We Can Be Heroes gave kids a chance to be super.

We Can Be Heroes

The Heroics

Preceded by: The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D

The Kato Movie

The Green Hornet deserves better. Before Batman, there was the masked vigilante known as the Green Hornet. His 1936 radio show was created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker. The show’s success led to film serials, comic books, and the more well known (and short-lived) 1966 cult TV series. I’ve known about it for years considering my parents were fans who only watched it for Bruce Lee. Like everyone else, I know the Green Hornet’s sidekick Kato is clearly the star of the show. When a movie was announced, my mom wanted to see it with my brother and I. Although the movie was bad when I saw it in theaters, I didn’t fully understand it until I watched the series 11 years later. The Green Hornet was cheaply made, formulaic, and an obvious Batman clone that even included a crossover. Yet it’s also a good ol’ fashion detective show with a classy performance from Van Williams and plenty of awesome martial arts action from Bruce Lee. The movie is more concerned with being meta, having crude jokes, tonal shifts, and surreal filmmaking from Eternal Sunshine director Michel Gondry.

I knew something was up when comedian Seth Rogen was cast as Daily Sentinel newspaper publisher Britt Reid aka the Green Hornet. George Clooney ironically turned down the role for Batman & Robin and several other a-listers were considered before he was cast. Although Rogen is technically the first comedian to slim down for a superhero role, he’s just not the charming ladies man Britt is supposed to be. This Britt is a spoiled rich kid who gets jealous of Kato’s many talents. Kato was equally hard to cast since no one can ever live up to Bruce Lee. Jason Scott Lee was also ironically considered before the role went to Taiwanese singer Jay Chou in his American film debut. The movie seriously plays up Kato’s skills by making him a near superhuman martial arts expert who builds the Black Beauty, constructs the Hornet gun, draws, and makes a mean cup of coffee. The Black Beauty is just as cool with several more weapons hidden inside. It can be funny when the movie points out certain aspects of the show like Kato’s lack of a superhero name.

We also see Britt’s stern father played by Tom Wilkinson before he dies. The Green Hornet and Kato pose as criminals like the show, but the former can barely be taken seriously. The rest of the cast feels just as out of character. Cameron Diaz is Reid’s attractive secretary Lenore Case who’s a lot more knowledgeable about journalism, but doesn’t return her bosses desperate advances. Edward James Olmos plays a much older, much less bumbling Mike Axford who ends up inheriting the company. The biggest slap in the face is making the trusted District Attorney Frank Scanlon a bad guy. David Harbour plays him in his first of many superhero related movie roles. The biggest saving grace is Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as the memorable Russian gangster Chudnofsky. His motivations are mostly not being taken seriously as a threat. James Franco cameos as a gangster just to point it out. Chudnofsky meets a brutal demise and the vigilante duo continue crime fighting after recreating the episode “Bad Bet on a 459-Silent.” None of it is enough to save the movie from mistreating its source material. 2011 just wasn’t the year for green superheroes (*cough* Green Lantern). The Green Hornet stings.

The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet and Kato

There’s No Need to Fear

Underdog is a treat for the young and the old. As long as you don’t care how many times it’s been told. It’s yet another failed attempt by Disney to adapt an old Saturday-morning cartoon. Underdog is the only animated animal superhero lucky enough to get his own movie. I guess we’ll have to wait for the Mighty Mouse, Atom Ant, or Super Chicken movie. Since my mom enjoyed the 60’s series growing up, my brother and I decided to see the movie with her. Even though Underdog is basically Superman with a dog (Krypto?), we did enjoy it when it first came out. Despite all the changes and Disneyfication of the simple superhero story.

Underdog is a little more concerned with a “boy and his dog” story. Shoeshine is just a regular Beagle given that name after licking a shoe. When he gains superpowers, Shoeshine adopts the name Underdog, learns to rhyme, and fights some crime. Since he isn’t anthropomorphic, Underdog has a whiny teenager by his side named Jack. He has a standard deceased mom and a distant dad who used to be a cop played by Jim Belushi. The same year he did Alvin and the Chipmunks, Jason Lee voiced Underdog. He feels just as miscast here as he was there. The high pitched Underdog doesn’t exactly sound right with his My Name is Earl voice.

His reporter love interest Polly Purebred is also a regular Cavalier King Charles Spaniel now belonging to a high school reporter named Molly played by Taylor Momsen. Amy Adams ironically voices Polly several years before she played Lois Lane. Wolf gangster Riff Raff is also changed to a bully Rottweiler voiced by Brad Garrett. Peter Dinklage and Patrick Warburton are really trying their hardest as the wicked scientist Dr. Simon Barsinister and his dimwitted lackey Cad respectively. Just like Superman, Underdog stops petty crime, flies with Polly, loses his powers, and saves his city from destruction. It’s derivative, but at least his theme song is still catchy. There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!

Underdog

Underdog flies

If Secret Agents were Guinea Pigs

G-Force is all about a team of elite special agent guinea pigs. It’s one of many movies I regret seeing in theaters. Considering I was 14 at the time, why would I go see something clearly meant for little kids? I guess I thought it would be the next Cats & Dogs. Of course I was equally disappointed with The Revenge of Kitty Galore released only a year later. The CGI used on the animals is literally the only good thing about G-Force. Which makes sense considering the one-off director is a visual effects artist.

The all-star voice cast consisting of Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, Penรฉlope Cruz, Jon Favreau, Nicolas Cage, and Steve Buscemi isn’t enough to save the movie. G-Force are the most bland generic stock secret agents I’ve ever seen. Darwin is the leader without a personality, Blaster is the unfunny comic relief in charge of transportation, and Juarez is the “tough girl” that everyone fauns over. Speckles is their mole cyber intelligence expert with a deep dark secret that you can easily figure out based on his species. Mooch is a mute gadget equipped fly that does recon for the team.

There’s also Zach Galifianakis as their scientist trainor, Will Arnett as the agent sent to take them in, and Bill Nighy as the villain plotting to take over the world. Their mission is to stop an uprising of appliance robots, but this is a Disney movie. So they’re taken to a pet store with even more potty humor and pointless side plots. Hurley is Darwin’s long lost brother who farts around messing things up. Bucky is a hotheaded hamster and there’s also a trio of idiotic mice. Much like Disney, I like to pretend G-Force never happened.

G-Force

G-Force